Mongolia neo-Nazis announce a change of tack - pollution control

Tue Jul 2, 2013 6:34am EDT
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By Carlos Barria

ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - A Mongolian neo-Nazi group has rebranded itself as an environmentalist organization fighting pollution by foreign-owned mines, seeking legitimacy as it sends Swastika-wearing members to check mining permits.

Tsagaan Khass, or White Swastika, has only 100-plus members but it is one of several groups with names like Dayar Mongol (Whole Mongolia), Gal Undesten (Fire Nation) and Khukh Mongol (Blue Mongolia), expanding a wave of resource nationalism as foreign firms seek to exploit the mineral wealth of the vast country, landlocked between Russia and China.

From an office behind a lingerie store in the Mongolian capital, the shaven-headed, jackbooted Tsagaan Khass storm-troopers launch bizarre raids on mining projects, demanding paperwork or soil samples to be studied for contaminants.

"Before we used to work in a harsh way, like breaking down doors, but now we have changed and we use other approaches, like demonstrations," the group's leader, Ariunbold Altankhuum, 40, told Reuters, speaking through a translator.

On a patrol to a quarry in grasslands a dusty two-hour ride from the capital, members wore black SS-style Nazi uniforms complete with lightning flashes and replica Iron Crosses.

They questioned a mine worker against the sound of machinery grinding stones about paper work, opting to return in a week when the owner had returned.

"Today our main goal is to save nature. We are doing things to protect the environment," Altankhuum said. "The development of mining is growing and has become an issue."

The group, founded in the 1990s, says it wants to halt pollution in the landlocked former Soviet satellite as foreign companies dig for gold, copper, coal and iron ore using cheap labor from neighboring China and nearby Southeast Asia. But a lot of the pollution is caused by local, illegal miners working individually.   Continued...

Ariunbold Altankhuum, founder of Mongolian neo-Nazi group Tsagaan Khass, stands next to a statue of Chingunjav, a Mongolian national hero (unseen), in Ulan Bator June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria